NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Florida state Rep. Shevrin Jones about a plan to bring Bahamians to the U.S. for assistance after Hurricane Dorian.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Hurricane Dorian is slowly heading north towards Nova Scotia today after tornadoes and storm surges caused extensive damage to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We’ll hear more in a few minutes about how that area is starting to recover. But first to the northern Bahamas, where the storm caused massive destruction. Authorities are warning that the death toll is likely to increase significantly in the coming days, and thousands of people lost their homes.
This morning, a cruise ship named Grand Celebration brought 1,100 Bahamian evacuees to the port of Palm Beach in Florida. In a statement, the cruise line noted that it spent nearly a full day vetting visas and passport documentation of the evacuees before departing for the U.S. Our next guest, Florida State Representative Shevrin Jones, wants to make it easier for evacuees to come to the United States. He’s lobbying the Trump administration to waive visa requirements that slow down the process of getting evacuees to shelter in his state.
Representative Jones, thanks so much for joining us.
SHEVRIN JONES: Thank you for having me, Michel.
MARTIN: So what are the visa requirements for the Bahamas normally? Are the – and what are the requirements that you’re now asking the Trump administration to suspend?
JONES: So currently now if an individual wants to come over into the state, they have to present their birth certificate, or they have to present a letter from the police department. But considering that many of these individuals do not have those materials because they were lost in the storm, we’re asking the Trump administration to waive those requirements to allow those individuals to be connected with their family. Or we can help the Bahamian government in some capacity to try and get these individuals their passports and get these individuals some type of documentation so they can come over here with their families.
MARTIN: The people who were already cleared to come to the U.S. – is it your understanding that these are people who – what? – have – either they have green cards, or they have family members here now?
JONES: That’s right. So after speaking with the – after speaking with Senator Rubio’s office earlier today, the individuals who have come over now are individuals who are – need medical attention currently now or those individuals who have identified family members that’s already over here. Those are the two type of individuals who have been moved out. And children, along with their families, have been moved out also to the port.
MARTIN: So you are a Democrat, but you mentioned a Florida senator, Marco Rubio, who’s a Republican. You have found some buy-in from members of the other party. As you mentioned, Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a letter – also sent a letter asking to waive certain requirements after speaking with you. Are they talking about the same requirements? Are you three on the same page?
JONES: Yes, we all are talking about the same requirements. Listen. I think when we are looking at these relief efforts and waiving these fees, I believe the people of the Bahamas are not asking about political party. They are just in need of our help.
MARTIN: Have you heard any response from the Trump administration so far?
JONES: We have not heard anything from the Trump administration. I did speak to Senator Rubio for about 15, 20 minutes yesterday, and he and Senator Scott are in – waiting for the president’s response. President Trump has spoken with Prime Minister Minnis, and they did speak about the suspension of the visas for certain people. But no formal response have come out. As soon as it does, Senator Rubio and I will talk again, I’m sure, at the beginning of the week.
MARTIN: That is Florida State Representative Shevrin Jones. He represents part of Broward County, north of Miami.
Representative Jones, thanks so much for talking with us.
JONES: Thank you for having me, Michel.